[Original Novel] Down in the Steam Tunnels, Part 8


Previous parts: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7

My feeling that I had not misjudged this man but was right to condemn him from the start only intensified as I read subsequent entries.

Despite this guy’s insistence that he had no affinity for the Nazis, he sure as hell sounded like one. Every conceivable attempted justification for the worst excesses of colonialism was on full display here. I could only be glad he was dead, and that men like him are for the most part extinct. However carefully he argued his views, the underlying attitudes made my skin crawl.

It is a tragically short leap from this sort of thinking to forced sterilizations, mass graves, and industrialized crematoria. A road paved with good intentions, blindly traveled by machine men, with machine minds and machine hearts, if any. Men who dutifully march towards whatever conclusion their own cold, calculating reason arrives at…however monstrous.

I turned the page only to find a faded, worn booklet tucked in there. Perhaps as a makeshift bookmark? . My blood ran cold for a moment, though I couldn’t say why.

I looked up in time to see a slide that was not a match for any of the photos I’d yet seen. A young boy with a bandaged head, looking bruised and malnourished, lay restrained to an operating table. The long, thin wires trailed as usual from the machine to pins in his spine. But in this photo, something new was discernible in the corner of the room.

Something faint. Ghostly. Malformed. I felt a tightness in my chest the moment I recognized it, and recalled the professor’s exposition on the train. As I feared, with each new slide, the apparition drew closer to the boy. But then, Zach arrived at the end of the drum.

Zach muttered, as if reading my mind. Thought that was really an understatement. What had William gotten up to down here? Swept under the carpet by the administration, an unwanted embarrassment to the university.

The professor, who’d been quietly searching through a file cabinet while I read the notebooks, handed me a brittle manilla envelope. Inside, the prize I’d sought from the beginning. What appeared to be the remaining photographs, including the anomalous ones I’d seen slides of just now.

One of them depicted William himself. Slouched over, one of his legs apparently deformed. A large, clunky device I figured for the ‘Beltone’ hearing aid strapped to his waist, twisted cable running from the box on his hip up to an earpiece.

I smirked, recollecting his criticism of who . Physician, heal thyself. It always seems to be the damaged and insecure who try to elevate themselves by denigrating others. Often concocting disturbingly elaborate worldviews around those ideas in the process.

I continued to the next journal entry, hoping for clues that would put everything else into perspective.

I fiddled with the light widget on my phone to assist in reading, but accidentally opened flappy bird. Once the light came on, I was also able to make out strange illustrations. “Figure 12b” depicted a series of skulls, labelled “Asiatic, Europid, Mongoloid, Negroid, Aboriginal”. I grimaced.

Of course, their shapes appeared markedly different. Because of the unfortunate preconceptions of the pitiful man who’d drawn this. To supply him with a private office, even in the steam tunnels, was an act of charity. I’d have invited him to continue his work from within a dumpster.

So he’d been suckered into the world of smoke, mirrors, and thinly disguised pseudoscientific dead-ends that Professor Travigan also inhabits. Not the dumpster I prescribed, but an effective way to redirect his energies towards some fruitless endeavor. At least this way, his research couldn’t hurt anybody. Or so I thought.

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